Call in a new year
Summer continues to burn brightly out my window. But it is time to return to work and resume teh routines of life, routines that sustain and hold me in place.
And so we begin with a new theme for the week.
The theme this week is clearly all about God’s call: hearing it, understanding it, responding to it.
Too often we miss that Jonah is not history. It is a satirical story offered in response to the self-important who denied salvation to any but people like them. In this story Jonah hears a call and runs. This is the wrong call at the wrong time. These Assyrians are accursed conquerors who have murdered and displaced people all across the Middle East. And Jonah is confident that God is entirely in the wrong and does all he can to have nothing to do with offering these scum any chance of salvation. He goes the wrong way. He sails and then offers to sacrifice himself rather than fulfil his call. And when God uses a whale to bring him to heel, he does the bare minimum to fulfil his call – offering the shortest sermon on record, 8 words! The irony is that despite all that God uses those eight words and the Assyrians respond and repent. Ridiculously even the animals are put in sack cloth. (Yes, you are supposed to laugh at this, in fact all the way through). For Jonah, and those like him, life in God was all about him. For the writers of the story, it is all about God and God’s ongoing offering of life to all.
Mark offers another call story. This time the four people called say yes and follow. Jesus is God’s hope and promise incarnate. Jesus personified God’s work in the world, and they were invited to be part of it. They were invited to be part of a community, a movement that also personified God’s ongoing work. Like Jonah these disciples got a lot wrong. Too often they thought it was all about them. They constantly let their hopes for Israel and themselves get in the way. They misunderstood, did the wrong thing, got in Jesus way. One betrayed him, another denied him and nearly all of them ran away. And like Jonah, God continued to work through them and in them. The movement and the community continued because of them.
Today we are invited to reflect on our own call. Each of us has been and continues to be invited to follow. We are invited to be part of a community, a movement that personifies God’s ongoing work. Like Jonah we get a lot wrong. Too often we think it is all about us. We constantly let our hopes get in the way. We misunderstand, do the wrong thing, and get in Jesus way. And like Jonah and those first disciples, God continues to work through and in us.
Which of these stories speaks to us? As we begin this New Year how might we embrace our call more fervently?